This past week, for the first time since I sat shiva, I visited two shiva houses. The two shiva houses were stark contrasts. One mourned the death of an over ninety year old father, grandfather and great-grandfather. One mourned the tragic death of a twenty five year old son who had yet to live his adult life. One mourned the passing of a generation. The other mourned a young life cut short. Both reminded me of how the seven days of mourning provide clarity of what is (or should be) important in one’s life and what is not (or should not be) important in one’s life. As I have noted months ago, the challenge is to integrate this lesson into one’s post-shiva daily life. For I would submit, there is a natural human tendency to slowly revert back to old ways and become once again primarily consumed by the “mundane” non-spiritual world around us and only secondarily involved in spiritual pursuits.
Leaving these shiva houses I reflected on myself and whether I have succeeded in reordering my priorities. I must admit that I have not been too successful in this endeavor. Even at this introspective time of the Jewish year, the month of Elul, when one is charged to put aside the physical world around us and prepare for the day in which we will have to argue our case before the Almighty, I struggle to find the time to prepare for my personal “trial”, to learn Shaarei Teshuva daily, and to even review and prepare for the davening of Rosh Hashanah.
Saying kaddish for eleven months keeps one connected to the memory of the departed and to the lessons of shiva. It is, however, way easier to say kaddish than it is to reorder one’s priorities.